Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, visited Aspire on Tuesday 28th September. Brian Carlin, CEO of Aspire, gave her a tour of the Aspire Leisure Centre, which was the first leisure centre in Europe for disabled and non-disabled people. The Centre has 32% of membership made up of disabled customers, compared to only about 2% to 3% in other leisure facilities.

In the fitness studio Penny Mordaunt was introduced to David Morphew who works at the Aspire Leisure Centre as Fitness Instructor and Duty Manager. David spoke about his own experiences since he sustained a spinal cord injury in 2006, following which he lost his specialist flooring business. Whilst visiting Aspire for an out-patient appointment David found out about a programme called InstructAbility which offers professional fitness industry qualifications for disabled people. The Programme is developed and run by Aspire, in partnership with YMCAFit and funded by Sport England.

David Morphew, Dean Tearle, Penny Mordaunt and Brian Carlin David Morphew, Dean Tearle, Penny Mordaunt and Brian Carlin

David said, “I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for the InstructAbility Programme. After my accident I’d lost everything. I had no job and I had to survive on benefits from the state. I was depressed because of my situation. This has been a lifeline. I’m just so grateful.”

Minister for Disabled People, Work, and Health, Penny Mordaunt, said: “It was fantastic to see first-hand the great work that Aspire is doing and speak with people like David, who are a testament to the vital role sport can play in helping people move into employment.

“Ensuring disabled people can access the same opportunities as everyone else is a priority for me and initiatives like InstructAbility show the power of sport to build equality and unlock potential.”

Brian Carlin, CEO of Aspire, says, “Over 300 disabled people have completed the InstructAbility Programme and the difference they are making in the Leisure Industry is remarkable. They are changing not just the attitudes of employers but also fellow employees and customers, by reaching out to disabled people in society and encouraging them to access fitness facilities and become more active and healthy. This is the start of a revolution to ensure equality of service provision as well as service use.

“I also discussed with Penny Mordaunt the services that Aspire offers to spinal cord injured people, including our free Welfare Benefits Advice Service. I look forward to her next visit so we can discuss further the needs of spinal cord injured people.”

Penny Mordaunt then tried out wheelchair rugby with members of the GBWR wheelchair rugby team and patients from the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at Stanmore.

Paul Arnold from GBWR and Penny Mordaunt MP 

Wheelchair rugby players